Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Fifty

When the level of radiation soared at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, fifty men stayed behind to try to contain the crisis. Their job is to keep seawater flowing through the emergency pipes until a way can be found to shut down the damaged reactors. In typical Japanese fashion, their names have not been released, nor has anyone said much about them. They are the ones who must sacrifice for the good of the others, as all Japanese are raised to think they ought to do. To me they seem much like a band of heroic soldiers from an ancient epic, risking all for their own honor and the safety of their families. No one knows yet what will happen to them, because we do not know how much radiation they have absorbed. If it has been too much, they will die like the firefighters who contained the Chernobyl disaster; if they are lucky, they will sicken but recover. Like soldiers, nuclear plant workers sometimes talk amidst their repetitive drills about how they would meet a real crisis, and I imagine they like to say they would do their duty to the end. Like the fifty are now.

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